It was supposed to be the year that James Bond and Wonder Woman duke it out for box-office supremacy, while marking the triumphant return of the Ghostbusters, Godzilla, giant Arrakis sandworms and hotshot naval pilot Maverick on the big screen.
Instead, it turned into a year of darkened movie theaters and pushed back release dates for potential Hollywood blockbusters because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Nearly all movie theaters in Central Massachusetts are shut down.
Regal Cinemas announced this week that all 536 theaters nationwide would be “temporarily suspending” all operations at the end of the day on Thursday, including Regal Cinemas Solomon Pond 15 in Marlboro.
In addition, Cinemagic in Sturbridge, Cinemaworld in Fitchburg, Elm Draught House in Millbury, Entertainment Cinemas in Leominster, Gardner Cinemas in Gardner, Strand Theatre in Clinton, and West Boylston Cinemas have all been closed for months. Showcase Cinema North in Worcester, which is owned by National Amusements, remains closed since March.
While most movie theaters across the region are closed, Blackstone Valley 14 Cinema de Lux in Millbury has been open since late August, according to Mark Malinowski, vice president of global marketing for National Amusements.
“We are committed to staying open,” Malinowski said. “As of Monday, we now can serve food and beverage in Massachusetts, so that’s a good thing for us and that’s a good thing for Blackstone Valley. So we can have popcorn and we’re popping popcorn again. So we’re excited for folks to come back now and enjoy concessions.”
In addition, National Amusements can increase the capacity of their theaters, including Blackstone Valley 14 Cinema de Lux, from 25 people to 50 percent capacity, while still practicing social distancing and safety protocols.
For October, National Amusements has brought back a bunch of “Halloween” titles, including “Halloween,” “The Exorcist,” “The Shining,” “Psycho,” “Poltergeist,” “Beetlejuice,” and “A Nightmare on Elm Street.”
Furthermore, National Amusements is doing private screenings for up to 20 people for $99 for a second-run movie (the list includes “Back to the Future,” “Casablanca,” “Dirty Harry,” “Goodfellas,” “Jaws,” “Jurassic Park,” Raiders of the Lost Ark,” “Risky Business,” “Superman,” the original “True Grit” and the director’s cut of “The Wild Bunch”) and $199 for first-run movies like “Tenet” and, starting next weekend, “The Honest Thief,” starring Liam Neeson and filmed in Worcester.
“Between concessions now being offered and the fact that we are bringing classic films and we have these private rental options for folks, we’re seeing people come back and we’re seeing people respond to that,” Malinowski said. “So we’re really hopefully that will have a good October and, then, ideally, in November and December, the same thing. We will be bringing back classic movies, whether it’s holiday movies or former November blockbusters from previous years. … We’re being creative and we are really thinking on our feet to bring people back.”
In the Regal Cinemas announcement, Cineworld, parent company of Regal, said he company was responding to an increasingly challenging theatrical landscape and sustained key market closures because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The closures will affect about 40,000 employees across the U.S., according to the press release.
“As major U.S. markets, mainly New York, remained closed and without guidance on reopening timing, studios have been reluctant to release its pipeline of new films. In turn, without these new releases, Cineworld cannot provide customers in both the U.S. and U.K. – the company’s primary markets – with the breadth of strong commercial films necessary for them to consider coming back to theaters against the backdrop of COVID-19,” according to a press release from the movie chain’s corporate office in Knoxville, Tennessee.